Angel of Death


An animal becomes part of the family. Maybe he was adopted from a shelter or maybe he wondered into the yard, sick and hungry. Some come from a pet store or maybe from a breeder of a favorite kind. And she becomes one of the family.

We eat, sleep, and walk together. We run, play, and laugh together. They comfort us through grief and tears. We share life with them.

Our family grows with them. Beloved childhood playmates go off to school and are welcomed home with wagging tail or deep, loud purr. Our hearts and souls are nourished and made whole because they are a part of our lives, part of us.

As with us all, time takes its toll. The fast-paced walks turn into a gentle stroll. They have trouble getting up and getting around. It is hard to see them weaken and decline. But a look into their eyes assures us they are still enjoying life.

Sooner or later a corner is turned. Cancer, sickness, or some unknown affliction is sucking them down. It may happen slowly or fast, it doesn’t matter. No BODY can last forever. No matter how long we have together, it is never long enough.

The call comes in for my help. No one is diluted; we all know what is needed. Sometimes I drive to the home, as nobody wants the last memory of our beloved to be the dreaded “trip to the vet.”

I arrive at the appointed hour. We reminisce about the good times. How did she get her name? (There is always a good story there). Isn’t it funny how we all have pet names for our pets – one label is by no means adequate.

The good-byes are expressed, tears are shed… I join in, but under control. Always under control. Hold it in damn it.

I give the injection that will help this beloved soul to the other side. Quickly, the chest is still. I listen closely for the heartbeat – – – silence. The suffering is ended. A sacred moment is shared. I know in my heart that they will meet again.

I AM THE ANGEL OF DEATH. After almost 30 years, it hasn’t gotten any easier. A prayer goes out to all I’ve touched.

I welcome you to pay tribute to all who have passed though your life.

7 replies
  1. kath
    kath says:

    Dirk, Jesse, Duncan, Merlin, Fidget, Fergus, Tom, Waify, all so loved that even those gone the longest are still deep in my heart. I too, believe we will be reunited. I believe that Dirk came to help Jesse let go that terrible night. I dread the facing it…that day, that moment. I swear that I won’t go through it again. I don’t do the easy thing, but fill up the house agin and again. I have loved them from day one. I love those gone and the ones still here with me. I am grateful for you and the others there who have helped us through. I remember every moment of every time, but I also remember the love.

    I know that you join in the good-byes… you and the others…sometimes your tears do show. Thank you for that. So yes the ANGEL of death, but RELEASER, with love. Thank you for being there when we need you.

  2. Micki Handte
    Micki Handte says:

    What profound words. But I look at it as the angel of new life. You may be helping them end their pain and suffering, but you are also giving them new life. They are whole again and perfect, waiting to meet their family again on the other side.

  3. Maria
    Maria says:

    This is such a beautiful article.
    I have had to face the end of life of three wonderful dogs.

    Two of these dogs had to be “put to sleep” withing the past 3 years. It broke my heart and seemed almost surreal each time, although each time was so different and both of these pets were dear to me in different ways.
    The veterinarians I had were so very helpful in both cases, reassuring me that “it was the right time” and telling me why they thought that…troubleshooting and telling me why it was best not to wait….telling me what might go wrong or become even worse if I waited. I see this role as being, not only the Angel of Death, but also just an Angel…because we look to your guidance and your expertise, in order to be sure that we are making this inevitable choice at the right time.

    I had a previous experience in which my Veterinary Angel was moved by her own affection for my dog. The dog, age 13, was a Golden Retriever with an abdominal tumor (a later vet told me it was probably a hemangiosarcoma…) She was not able to eat and was very dehydrated. I called a vet to the house, thinking the dog would be euthanized. To my surprise, the vet. who had saved my dog’s life twice before, felt she wanted to make an attempt to save her life yet again. She hydrated the dog with I.V. fluids and made a plan to do an exploratory surgery the next morning. If possible she would remove the tumor, and if she could, the dog would be saved yet again! It sounded like a good plan…I went along with it, of course, hoping my pet could live a while longer.

    It never occurred to me to ask if anything could possibly go wrong before the surgery.
    But the surgery never happened. Overnight, my dog became very ill, and after crying out and vomiting blood, expired right before me on my kitchen floor. I was devastated, of course.

    I know the Veterinarian did not anticipate this, but it taught me that sometimes it is best to make a decision based on thinking about all the things that might cause further suffering …and to avoid that suffering. In this case, my vet meant well and I was totally on board…but I made a promise to myself that I would never take a chance like that again, and risk further suffering for the animal. In this case, if we had done some troubleshooting about the possible things that could go wrong, perhaps I would have opted for euthanasia just to keep her from further pain.

    With the two dogs that were euthanized recently, we did discuss the things that could possibly go wrong if we waited….and in both cases I was reassured that it was, in fact, the right time…not premature, but the correct time in order to avoid a possibly more painful situation that could occur if we waited.

    So ….you veterinarians are not just Angels of Death …you are the Angels of Mercy and you are just the Angels that we pet parents need, to provide the important information that is critical as we make this difficult decision. It cannot possibly be easy to be in that role, but it is so important. You all deserve our deepest thanks.

  4. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    29 March 2007 – 2 June 2015
    We helped Giuseppina cross over the Rainbow Bridge, June 2, 2015, Tuesday night around 11. Giuseppina’s blood work Tuesday evening showed her Kidney Levels were climbing and the Potassium level was now at 8 (very dangerous for the heart). Her kidney’s were shutting down.
    My husband and I knew she was not going to recover from this.
    I took her out for a potty break and she stopped to listen to the sounds, birds, insects, cars, passing trucks. We proceeded to move on to go back into the Hospital, where Giuseppina has been since 12:30 AM Sunday, well she paused again to listen to the sounds. I decided we were not going back inside the hospital, we would stay outside by the picnic table.
    The night was Perfect in Naples Florida, 75 degrees, no humidity, no bugs and a nice cool breeze. A blanket was brought out for Giuseppina to lay on and there we stayed for 3 hours talking to her, kissing her and loving her. Giuseppina now had her eyes open while listening to familiar, comforting sounds. While in the Hospital she hardly opend her eyes because she was afraid.
    My Husband and I stayed outside with her until the end while we held our Precious Bullmastiff Giuseppina.
    Giuseppina had the Memory of being outside with her Mom and Dad Loving Her on a Beautiful Peaceful evening.
    We Will Meet Again My “Precious” We Will!

  5. Marcy Presutti
    Marcy Presutti says:

    Hello Dr. Doug, Our mini Doxie went to Heaven 2 weeks ago. He was only 6 years with us. The Dr. /Vet that assisted was not an “angel of death”, and neither are you. You are a Dr./Vet that gives life and has promised to do so. You are a human person assisting in the process of continuing & supporting life. God grants and call us to Himself, because God is the creator of every living person, animal & thing. I believe in eternal life thru Jesus Christ. I also believe this for my pets. I have never seen such confusion, and pain on a face that was all over my little “Chili” as he experienced tremors every 3 seconds for 4 days. He had to go thru losing his ability to walk, move his head, eat, drink or wag his long hair tail at me & my Husband. He reminded me of the great pain that Jesus Christ endured, and willing took in my place on the cross. Why? for my sin would be taken away & placed on Jesus’ Holy body. That’s how I will go to heaven, and thank my Savior Jesus, and see all my pets that have gone before me. You are not the angel of death. that title is reserved for The Lord God. The giver and taker of life. Please be at Peace with what you do as a Dr./Vet. and continue to be a Dr./Vet that gives life. Remember, ” All God creatures great & small, God loves them all.” Thank you, Mrs. Marcy Presutti. I have written this In loving memory of my little “Chili”. I have Hope in the promise that I will see my dog again in Heaven with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you.

    • Dr. Doug
      Dr. Doug says:

      Sorry for the downer everyone. I wrote this right after I did a house call euthanasia and it all just flowed out. For a short while I felt the weight on me that comes from performing such a profound act. At such times I comfort myself by reflecting on the fact that I am ending a sentient being’s suffering. Never-the-less, the grief surrounding euthanasia affects me. It was therapeutic to express it and I thank you all for your comments of support. I was briefly in a dark place but I’m feeling fine now. In truth, I never want to become numb to the emotions associated with this difficult part of my calling. I will continue to work through it each and every time.


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